Little Sweatshop big group photoIt’s Sunday morning. At least two-dozen adults crowd the dusty gym floor, trying to watch and listen as the muscled blonde describes what their next hour will entail. Her speech is drowned out by the shrieking, shouting, and laughing of at least two-dozen children that are rambunctiously running through an adjacent playspace. Mid-sentence she stops, and with a stern look on her face  scorns, “WHO brings KIDS to a GYM???”

Then she bursts out laughing.

Welcome to Sunday HIIT class at Little Sweatshop. It’s far from your typical crossfit box. On paper it’s the same – a chalky, industrial gym; cement with some rubber mats and wooden platforms, decked out with bars and racks and kettlebells. But beyond that, this is a place unlike any other.

Shelley Family Strong tshirt

Shelley Montemurro runs Little Sweatshop. Scratch that – she doesn’t run it – she lives and breathes it. She’s there at 6am, busting her butt with her early bird clients. She’s there throughout the morning, when the clientele is mostly moms with little ones in tow. She’s there in the afternoons, offering special programming for school groups and organizations like Sherwood Park’s Robin Hood Society. She’s there on the weekends, sweeping the gym, cleaning the toys, writing the paycheques.

The gym isn’t a job to Shelley – these people are her family. Her “Ohana”. It’s posted all over her walls, and often even on her tanktop. She knows exactly when a client needs a hug, or a high five or a swift kick in the butt – sometimes all three. Half the time she gives these motivational messages virtually – she somehow manages to keep up with facebook, twitter and instagram. And she answers Every. Single. Message. Herself. All day long.

All Day Long

Little Sweatshop started as friends getting together to workout with Shelley in a community gym. Trainers complained. They moved their workouts to Shelley’s garage. Neighbours complained. So Shelley found a space in an industrial area in the North end of Sherwood Park and built her dream. It exploded.

Little Sweatshop line of people

It’s all word of mouth. My twins were about 6 months old when my friends told me I absolutely HAD to come try their gym. “How could that possibly work?” I thought to myself. “I’m just supposed to show up and plunk my babies on the floor and workout for an hour? There’s no way!” I waited until they were 19 months old. I went. They cried. Other moms looked at me with knowing eyes and promised me it would get better.

And it did. The first couple times there were tears, but soon it became a fun outing for everyone. I still get called away to find snacks and help with the potty, but those are minimal distractions for the privilege of finding such a wonderfully inclusive gym. And shortly after I started, I noticed my little “A” trying to jump onto tree stumps at the park. I am absolutely positive she was copying the box jumps we adults do in class. We were all learning, and getting stronger, thanks to Shelley’s vision.

Little Sweatshop offers 5-6 workout times most days, plus some martial arts classes (for kids and adults), kids’ yoga and even a surf class. Every Sunday is the popular HIIT class. Free. For everyone. Members. Friends. Strangers. Everyone is welcome. Bring your kids. It’s a sweaty little love note of thanks from an unstoppable woman who does this and more all day long.

Little Sweatshop Free Sunday HIIT class

Little Sweatshop Sunday FREE HIIT Class

When: Sundays
Time: 9am
Where: Little Sweatshop, #180, 2301 Premier Way, Sherwood Park